A gap has existed in the Northeast region’s specialty toy fair calendar since the North American International Toy Fair moved its show from winter to fall. Next year, the North East Toy Show (NETS) will fill that opening. The first local specialty toy show of the year on the East Coast will present an opportunity for retailers, buyers and manufacturers to network and see new products.
The show is organized by Christine and Alan Blumberg of Trade Show Ventures. They are the principals and owners of RBG Sales.
The inaugural NETS is set to take place February 11-13, 2024 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA. The show has room to accommodate more than 300 vendor booths, and will feature a game hall – which will focus on game vendors – and social events. The show floor will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday as well as 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday. There will be a Super Bowl party from 5 to 11 p.m. on Sunday at the Basketball Hall of Fame, where guests can watch the game right on the hall’s court. On Monday, vendors who will release game titles in 2024 will have the opportunity to participate in Game Night from 6 to 9 p.m. at the convention center.
There will be more than 1,200 people at NETS, including a minimum of 600 to 700 retailers, Alan estimates. Attendance is open to not only specialty toy stores, but also pharmacies, book stores, garden shops and any other store that has a toy section. “Since we are such a local show and the cost is so reasonable, we expect many of the retailers will bring their staff,” Alan said.
About a year ago, the Blumbergs sent out a survey about hosting a locally-based toy show in the Northeast; retailers voiced their support. The idea for NETS was further cemented when retailers at the 2022 New England Game and Kit Day in October, hosted by RBG Sales, requested an additional game and kit event in the winter. “It was really well-attended,” Alan said. “Retailers who came to the event requested that we do an additional event in the first part of the year so their staff could get trained on the new games and be able to sell them.”
The Blumbergs have experience with attending and exhibiting at toy shows in the past, but they wanted some additional expertise for NETS. They called on Lea Culliton, former president of HABA USA and chairman of the ABC Kids Expo, to connect them with someone in the trade show business. Her role quickly evolved as she became NETS’ executive director. At the time, Culliton was seven months into her retirement, but was very happy to help as she was impressed by Alan and Christine’s commitment. “For 20 years I was on the other side as an exhibitor,” Culliton stated. “It’s exciting. The Blumbergs have a really solid idea.”
The first part of the year is a critical time for retailers to make decisions about their inventory and seek out the newest products, Alan explained. As they planned NETS, the Blumbergs talked with ASTRA President Sue Warfield to make sure the show would not be in competition with the organization’s events. Warfield gave NETS her blessing.
NETS’ main focus is on manufacturers and retailers in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Upstate New York regions. With its location in Springfield, NETS is a drivable distance from large cities including Boston, Albany, New York City and Philadelphia and nearby Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. “The Northeast is the largest territory with the most volume of specialty toy stores,” Culliton said. “It’s huge that they can go in their own backyard instead of having to travel across the country.”
Once in Springfield, attendees will discover how the MassMutual Center is centrally located. The hotels are just two blocks away from the show – no shuttles will be available between the hotels and event center. For those who are flying in, Hartford-Bradley Airport is about a 30-minute drive away.
The goal of the show is to provide an opportunity for retailers to access new products at the beginning of the year and for vendors to present to the largest number of retailers. The Blumbergs and Culliton want to fill the show floor with a wide variety of exhibitors to attract more buyers. “Our mission statement is ‘Convenience, community and commerce,’” Alan stated. “It’s convenient for retailers, it brings our community together and allows us to do business.”
“It’s all about creating that camaraderie and networking opportunity for people to connect with each other,” Culliton added.
Registration for NEST is now open to vendors. Registration for attendees is expected to open in late summer.
The second annual New England Game and Kit Day is set for Sept. 7, 2023 at MassMutual Convention Center.
For more information and to register for NETS, visit netoyshow.com